With things heating up in the upcoming City of Blue Ridge election, the work session this morning left tempers flaring and talk about seeking a new election supervisor, among other issues with the election.
Based on information provided to FYN, the first 13 voters in the city election that participated in early voting were not required to fill out and sign a voters application, which left a conflict just days later that led to some people, including candidate Kathleen Setser and her husband, Steve, voting twice.
City Election Supervisor, Sally Smith learned that these 13 voters had not filled out and signed an application form on Tuesday, October 15th. Based on information provided by city attorney, Smith had not addressed the issue with him until late on Thursday evening. During a heated discussion at the work session, council person Rhonda Thomas explained that she came by on Friday, October 18th to obtain a list of voters that had came in to vote. She stated that she received a different list in her mailbox on Monday morning. When she compared the two lists, she discovered that five names were on the list twice.
When Smith explained herself, she stated that she forgot to give Thomas the complete list of the voters because the list was already put away in the safe. Thomas and Mayor Whitener analyzed Smith's actions stating that this was a small mistake and the fact that such a small mistake had occurred deemed her incompetent and put the integrity of the entire election at risk.
After speaking with representatives with the State Board of Elections, the city attorney, recommended that they continue as he had previously told Smith and that was to contact the 13 voters, have them come in and fill out the application form and cast another ballot and the first ballot would be marked as "spoiled" and would be disregarded in the final vote count. Smith had already began that process without council approval, which is what generated the second vote for the five voters casting a second ballot. According to Thomas, Smith allowed Setser to contact one of the voters herself and inform them that there was an issue with their ballot. As things headed up, Thomas told Smith that she was clearly incompetent and couldn't handle the appointment of being the Election Supervisor.
While the issue of having dual votes for some voters is an issue, Mayor Whitener explained that she believed this could be an easy fix but that she had an issue with the time gap that had lapsed between Smith being aware of the issue and the time that she contacted the city's attorney to address the issue. She continued that Smith had been in contact with the attorney all week long regarding the Sales Tax Issue with Lynda Thompson. Smith stated that the reason for the time lapse was that she debated covering it up instead of coming forward to admit her shortfall of duty. Thomas couldn't believe her ears. Whitener and Thomas expressed desire to have a supervisor from the county take over Smith's duties but county attorney, Lynn Doss stated that she didn't know if the county would assume responsibility or not and would have to have a special called meeting.
In reference to the Sales Tax issue for Lynda Thompson, an email had been received by council and city attorney stating that there was a payment plan in force for Thompson to pay the outstanding balance. Concerns were raised about the email because it did not reference Thompson by name and the ID number on the email did not match previously used ID numbers referencing Thompson's balance. The attorney for the city stated that he would contact the Department of Revenue to confirm this information and that in the event that it was confirmed, that Thompson would be able to keep her eligibility as a candidate and the hearing to confirm her eligibility would be cancelled.
Mayor Whitener made a motion to go into an emergency special called meeting to make a decision on the action to be taken in reference to Smith's position as election supervisor. Council members Harold Herndon and Thomas voted to carry the motion with Michael Eaton opposing it. Since it would have been an emergency meeting, the statute states that three members must vote in favor of the motion. With Rodney Kendall absent due to a family matter, the motion was not carried and an emergency meeting was not held.
The Blue Ridge City Council will hold a meeting this evening, October 22, 2013 at 5:00 pm at the City Hall. FYN will be there to report the decisions made in this meeting.